Last month, Gizmodo published an incredibly well thought out article by by Alissa Walker, titled “What’s Stopping Us from Building Cities in Space? No, It’s Not Tech.”
It’s just an excellent think piece that takes a hard look at the various obstacles standing in the way of humankind’s inevitable move toward living off world. She points out that those obstacles, and we absolutely agree with her, aren’t as daunting as people might think:
Of course there are plenty of tech advancements that need to be made to get humans living in space—gotta figure out that radiation protection!—but those challenges aren’t the biggest things holding the US back. There are much bigger political, perceptual, and yes, economic shifts that need to occur to get us thinking about living off-Earth.
Politics. Perception. Economics.
Of course, the greatest of those in many ways, is the economic challenge of building The Gateway, but then we’ve already proposed one solution for that.
Ironically, it will very likely wind up being politics and perception – what should be the two easiest obstacles to overcome – that prove to be the most challenging. But Walker remains optimistic about that as well:
Many Americans like to believe that the 1960s were some kind of heyday for human spaceflight—we look back at this period and bemoan the fact that the space program will never be as exciting again.
Waldman says this is kind of a greater delusion that we’ve convinced ourselves of as a culture. Actually, NASA was very low priority for federal spending at the time and there was a lot of pessimism about it in general. In fact, we can only seem to get excited about the idea of human spaceflight when it’s wrapped up in nostalgia. The report compared contemporary public opinion polls about the space program with polls during the Apollo mission. “When asked if Apollo missions were worth the money, during that time people said no,” she says. “The only upticks are when we’re looking back.”
This is not bad news, says Waldman, and I agree. It means that the actions taken in the very near future will be able to change the way people think about going to space. Whether or not we land a human on Mars in our lifetimes, this Golden Age of space exploration is still to come—once we’ve decided as a civilization that we’re committed to making it happen.
This is absolutely correct. Without the will of the people, a project as massive as building The Gateway cannot be done. But we believe that in the coming years, there will be a shift in public perception about what is
possible necessary inevitable. As the article says, the golden age of space travel is upon us.